Greg Perreault Jul 7, 2015
As of July 1, 2015, we will no longer be publishing new content at Columbia Faith & Values. The reality of our closing is similar to that faced by many news organizations. At the end of the day, it’s about the finances. It is hard to afford to the quality of the work you deserve and despite hard work, we can’t afford the size staff needed for this site to succeed.
We are proud to have served you for the past three years. Credit goes to our fantastic reporters and columnists, to our founding editor Kellie Moore, and to MU’s Center for Religion and the Professions for hosting us during our last year.
We will be shifting our focus to a new project in conjunction with the Center for Religion and the Professions, Engaging Belief. Engaging Belief is designed to be a resource for religious events, organizations and information aimed at students at the University of Missouri. Our website is still in its infancy, but you’ll hear more about us—and it’s editor Elise Watson—in the coming months.
It’s sad to see a news organization go. Sadder still when it was a good one. As someone who has always been both an admirer and an advocate for Columbia Faith and Values, having to say goodbye is hard. But thank you for the opportunity to learn from you and learn with you.
Greg Perreault Jul 1, 2015
The First Church of Cannabis won’t have cannabis for its inaugural service Wednesday, church founder Bill Levin said on his Facebook page on Monday (June 29).
Marion County prosecutor Terry Curry and IMPD chief Rick Hite had a news conference Friday (June 26) to warn about arrests if people had marijuana. After that news conference, Levin said it changed nothing about his plans.
On Monday afternoon, though, it did change.
“Right now, we do not want to address this in criminal court, because it’s not a strong hand,” Levin said in an interview with The Indianapolis Star. “If we address this in civil court, we have a stronger hand.”
Levin, who also calls himself the church’s minister of love, formed the organization this year partly as a means to test Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which bars the government from infringing on religious practices.
He plans his first official church service July 1, the day the law goes into effect. At the end of that first service, he had originally planned to follow the blessing with a congregation-wide marijuana smoking.
The Internal Revenue Service has granted the church nonprofit status. The designation means donors can deduct gifts to the church on their federal tax returns if they itemize and the church is eligible for a property-tax exemption in Indiana.
Kimberly Winston Jun 30, 2015
Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, announced his candidacy for the presidency Tuesday (June 30) saying, “I am now ready to fight for the people of the United States of America.”
Here are five faith facts about the presidential hopeful from the Garden State.
1. He is a cradle Catholic.
Christie was born to Catholic parents and baptized in the faith as an infant. As a child, he spent a lot of time with his grandmother, going to Mass with her everyday. Now he’s fond of telling this story: One day, he decided to stop praying because “it didn’t work.” He had prayed to God for a good grade on a test and still got a C. Her answer: “No Chris, you’re wrong. God always answers your prayers. But sometimes the answer is no.”
Christie stuck with his faith — he graduated from Seton Hall University, a Catholic school in South Orange, N.J., and has described his faith as “a huge part” of his life.
Greg Perreault Jun 29, 2015
At the Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s funeral Friday (June 26), President Obama spoke of the black church as the bulwark of the people, of gun violence and racism. But he wove it all in to a meditation on God’s grace. Here is the video and the full text as released and annotated by the White House. Note that the written text does not convey fully the impact, at the end of the president singing the hymn a cappella.
THE PRESIDENT: Giving all praise and honor to God. (Applause.)
The Bible calls us to hope. To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.
“They were still living by faith when they died,” Scripture tells us. “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.”
We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.
To Jennifer, his beloved wife; to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters; to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.
I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well. But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger. (Laughter.) Back when I didn’t have visible grey hair. (Laughter.) The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor — all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.
Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived; that even from a young age, folks knew he was special. Anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful — a family of preachers who spread God’s word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South. Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.
He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth’s insecurities; instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.
As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America. A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools; a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment. A place that needed somebody like Clem. (Applause.)
His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely. But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.
Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small. He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes. No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us — the best of the 46 of us.”
Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of the AME church. (Applause.) As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation, but…the life and community in which our congregation resides.” (Applause.)
He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words; that the “sweet hour of prayer” actually lasts the whole week long — (applause) — that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation; that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.
What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized — after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man. (Applause.)
You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41 — slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.
Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. (Applause.) People so full of life and so full of kindness. People who ran the race, who persevered. People of great faith.
To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life — (applause) — a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.
Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah — (applause) — rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart — (applause) — and taught that they matter. (Applause.) That’s what happens in church.
That’s what the black church means. Our beating heart. The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate. When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel — (applause) — a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes. (Applause.)
When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps. A sacred place, this church. Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion — (applause) — of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all. That’s what the church meant. (Applause.)
We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history. But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress. (Applause.) An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion. An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.
Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. (Applause.) God has different ideas. (Applause.)
He didn’t know he was being used by God. (Applause.) Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group — the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle. The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court — in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that. (Applause.)
The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley — (applause) — how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond — not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.
Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace. (Applause.)
This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. (Applause.) The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons. The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals — the one we all know: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. (Applause.) I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. (Applause.)
According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God — (applause) — as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.
As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. (Applause.) He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. (Applause.) We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.
For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. (Applause.) It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise — (applause) — as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. (Applause.) For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.
Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — (applause) — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. (Applause.) It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)
But I don’t think God wants us to stop there. (Applause.) For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career. (Applause.)
Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. (Applause.) Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system — (applause) — and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure. (Applause.)
Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. (Applause.) So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. (Applause.) By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)
For too long —
AUDIENCE: For too long!
THE PRESIDENT: For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. (Applause.) Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed — the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.
The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this. We see that now. (Applause.) And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace. (Applause.)
We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it. (Applause.) But God gives it to us anyway. (Applause.) And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.
None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There’s no shortcut. And we don’t need more talk. (Applause.) None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy. It will not. People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires — this is a big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates. Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.
But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. (Applause.) Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual — that’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society. (Applause.) To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change — that’s how we lose our way again.
It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.
Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history — we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.” (Applause.) What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. (Applause.) That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past — how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind — but, more importantly, an open heart.
That’s what I’ve felt this week — an open heart. That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think — what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”
That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. (Applause.) If we can tap that grace, everything can change. (Applause.)
Amazing grace. Amazing grace.
(Begins to sing) — Amazing grace — (applause) — how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see. (Applause.)
Clementa Pinckney found that grace.
Cynthia Hurd found that grace.
Susie Jackson found that grace.
Ethel Lance found that grace.
DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.
Tywanza Sanders found that grace.
Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.
Myra Thompson found that grace.
Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America. (Applause.)
Text and video provided by the White House
Lauren Markoe Jun 26, 2015
In the days before the Supreme Court made it possible for gay couples to marry everywhere in the U.S., we asked two couples of faith — one Jewish who live in a state that forbids gay marriage, and one Christian and opposed to gay marriage — what the decision would mean to them.
When Amber Feldman and Elisa Abes’ son went in for ear surgery a few years ago, both mothers wanted to be with the infant when the anesthesiologist put him under. But Feldman, who is not his birth parent and has no right to adopt him in Ohio, had to stay behind in the waiting room.
When they were trying to enroll their daughter in their local public school, the couple was told Feldman could be listed as an “emergency contact” on school records, but not as a parent.
And at tax time, Feldman has to check “single” on the forms.
“I don’t want to mark that I’m single — I’m not, Feldman said. “There’s just an invisibility there, a nonrecognition of who we are. We’re a family and you don’t want to explain that all the time.“
There will be much less explaining to do now that the Supreme Court has made gay marriage the law, even in Feldman and Abes’ Ohio and the dozen other states that had prohibited it.
John Bacon Jun 25, 2015
Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev apologized in court Wednesday for “the suffering that I’ve caused” in the April 2013 attack that killed three people and wounded hundreds.
Tsarnaev said in a shaky voice that he was guilty and that he prays for the victims.
“I am sorry for the lives that I’ve taken, for the suffering that I’ve caused you, for the damage that I’ve done — irreparable damage,” he said, breaking more than two years of public silence.
“If there is any lingering doubt, let there be no more. I did it, along with my brother,” Tsarnaev said, referring to the bombings carried out by him and older brother Tamerlan. “I ask Allah to have mercy on me, my brother and my family,” he added, CNN reported.
When Tsarnaev was finished speaking, Judge George O’Toole formally sentenced him to die.
“What will be remembered is that you murdered and maimed innocent people, and that you did it willfully and intentionally. You did it on purpose,” O’Toole said, adding “I sentence you to the penalty of death by execution.”
A jury decided six weeks ago that Tsarnaev should be executed for the 2013 terror attack that rocked Boston and the nation. The only suspense Wednesday was whether Tsarnaev, now 21, would apologize, explain why he committed the crimes or speak at all before Judge George O’Toole. Tsarnaev did not testify at his trial.
Greg Perreault Jun 23, 2015
For seven years, Geof Peabody — owner and instructor at Peabody’s Shooting Range — has been teaching his fellow church members how to use guns.
Peabody said interest in his class has been growing among the faithful, as they feel a need to be prepared in case of an attack.
The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina Wednesday that left nine black parishioners dead is reinforcing that feeling, and some church members’ belief that they may need to pack a gun when they go to worship.
Dylann Roof, the white 21-year-old suspect of the Emanuel killings, sat with the church prayer group for about an hour before he allegedly yelled racial epithets and then opened fire at the group.
Yamiche Alcindor Jun 22, 2015
Hundreds Sunday packed the pews of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church readying themselves to bury nine beloved members and seek justice on their behalf as part of the church’s activist tradition.
In an energetic and emotional service, the Rev. Norvel Goff assured those gathered that the victims, including the church’s pastor and state senator the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, did not die in vain. Others echoed that sentiment saying that while the city is preparing for funeral services, calls for reforms and social activism would also follow.
“We still believe that prayer changes things. Can I get a witness?” the Rev. Norvel Goff said. The congregation, swelled with government and community leaders and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and her family, responded with a rousing “Yes.”
“We’re going to be vigilant,” Goff said as churchgoers swayed and clapped in response. “The blood of the Mother Emanuel nine requires us to work until not only justice in this case but for those living in the margin of life, those less fortunate than ourselves, that we stay on the battlefield until there’s no more fight to be fought.”
Dylann Roof, 21, is charged with opening fire on the group, discharging multiple shots into each victim during a Wednesday bible study, according to police affidavits. A white supremacist manifesto purportedly written by Roof to explain why he targeted the church says he had “no choice” but to target African Americans, whom he derides as “stupid and violent.”
Greg Perreault Jun 19, 2015
People may think Debbie Dills is a hero, but she says God alone should get the credit.
The woman who spotted, reported, and followed the vehicle driven by Dylann Roof first heard the news of the Charleston, S.C., church shooting after attending services at her small, Southern Baptist church in rural North Carolina. The next day, as the florist was running late for work and praying for the grieving families, she spotted Roof’s vehicle and noticed the South Carolina license plate. Once she recognized Roof’s haircut, she realized she was following the alleged shooter. Dills called her boss, called the police, and continued to follow the car until Roof was apprehended at a traffic stop down the road.
Many words come to mind when we think of Dills: courageous, compassionate, a Good Samaritan. But Dills uses the word “vessel.” That’s a biblical word that indicates she saw herself as “an instrument” in the hands of God. “It was God from the time I left my house this morning. It was Him that made me look at that car. It was God who made this happen,” she says. “God heard the prayers of those people.”
Greg Perreault Jun 17, 2015
A new Gregorian chant CD by a group of Benedictine monks in Norcia, Italy, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s classical music chart last week (June 10). The album, “Benedicta,” was also the top overall seller at Barnes & Noble, was No. 2 on Amazon and made iTunes’ Top 40.
This is not the first time monastic chant has seen secular appeal; the biggest seller to date has been a CD called “Chant,” which became a pop-culture sensation 21 years ago. It featured music recorded in the 1970s and ’80s by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos in Spain, but it didn’t attract much attention until re-released in 1994 by Angel Records.
With its whimsical cover illustration of hooded friars floating among the clouds, and marketing language that touted a “magical calm,” the CD sold 2.6 million copies in the U.S. and more than 6 million worldwide. It was followed by sequels “Chant II” and “Chant III,” among others.
But that was two decades ago, and times have changed — both musically and religiously. Buying albums has become passe. Today’s fans graze on music a track at a time on streaming services, like a la carte appetizers. Interest in Christianity continues to decline, according to the latest surveys. So it seems especially paradoxical that an album showcasing the Catholic Church’s most traditional form of liturgical prayer would generate such interest